Parents angry at more places for poor pupils at grammar schools

Middle-class parents hit out at plans to admit more poorer students to their children’s grammar school over fears it will ‘lower standards’

  • King Edward VI group of Birmingham schools wants to change admission rules 
  • They want 25% of places reserved for pupils who come from low-income families
  • But parents are upset and say it will ruin ‘jewel in the crown’ grammar schools

Middle-class parents fear plans by their local grammar schools to admit poorer pupils will lower standards.

The King Edward VI group of six schools in Birmingham wants to change their admission rules to give disadvantaged pupils a better chance of getting in.

Among the proposed changes are new catchment areas which would include the poorer parts of the city and a quota of 25 per cent of places reserved for those from low-income families.

But parents complain the plans would shut out bright pupils who do not live in Birmingham and also lower academic standards.

They also say the changes would eventually be rendered pointless as those living outside catchment areas would simply move house to get their child in, pushing up prices in the city.

The King Edward VI group of six schools in Birmingham wants to change their admission rules to give disadvantaged pupils a better chance of getting in but parents aren’t happy. Pictured: King Edward VI Aston

There is already anecdotal evidence of prospective parents house-hunting within the catchment areas, they said.

More than 3,000 people have so far signed a petition opposing the plans, which would come into effect from September 2020.

Kaja Fawthrop, who has an 11-year-old son at one of the schools, said: ‘People are very upset about the way this has been handled. 

‘The grammar schools are a jewel in the crown of Birmingham and we believe the changes mean they are no longer aiming for the highest possible academic standards.

‘We all want to see more opportunities for poorer pupils, of course, we all want that. 

‘But there are far better ways to do this than by drawing a line and saying people over this line just can’t come in.

‘I wanted [my son] to go to the best school in Birmingham. I am worried it won’t be able to maintain that position in future.’


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The changes have been mooted in response to criticism that grammar schools are overpopulated with rich middle-class children, whose parents can afford to pay for private tutoring.

The entrance exams are supposed to be tutor-proof. However, many parents have their children tutored for up to two years before to give them the edge on their peers.

In the case of the Birmingham schools, many pupils come from more affluent areas outside of the city as places are open to anyone.

The new catchment areas would mean that the schools would have to give preference to pupils living nearer, often living in less well-heeled areas. 

A new ‘localisation policy’ would be imposed, meaning higher scoring children in catchment areas would get first places, followed by lower scoring children who achieve a minimum cut-off score.

In addition, 25 per cent of places at each school would be reserved for applicants eligible for the pupil premium – those on very low incomes – who achieve a minimum standard and live in catchment.

Currently, there is a quota in place but it only applies to 20 per cent of places.

Parents complain the plans would shut out bright pupils who do not live in Birmingham and also lower academic standards. Pictured: King Edward VI Camp Hill School for boys

Only after these are awarded would places go to high-scoring pupils outside of catchment areas.

The six schools – King Edward VI Aston School, Camp Hill Schools for Boys and Girls, Five Ways School and Handsworth Schools for Boys and Girls – regularly feature in the top ten of all schools in the city.

Each year, about 6,000 pupils sit the tough entrance tests in a bid to secure one of the cherished places.

Campaigners have written to the board of governors and urged local MPs to back their protest.

The King Edward VI Academy Trust say the proposals, initiated by executive director Heath Monk, are designed to ‘enhance our historic mission of providing high-quality education, in a local school, for the children of Birmingham, regardless of background.’

The proposals aim to ‘improve accessibility for disadvantaged students; ensure that there is priority for local children; and provide a more consistent approach across our growing family of selective schools,’ it said.

The proposals are supported by the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, which tweeted its support.

More than 3,000 people have so far signed a petition opposing the plans, which would come into effect from September 2020. Pictured: King Edward VI Five Ways School 

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